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Ralph Harold Boston (born May 9, 1939) is a retired American track athlete, and he is best remembered for the long jump, in which he was the first person to break the 27 feet (8.2 m) barrier.

Ralph Boston
Ralph Boston 1960.jpg
Ralph Boston at the 1960 Olympics
Personal information
Full nameRalph Harold Boston
BornMay 9, 1939 (1939-05-09) (age 80)
Laurel, Mississippi, U.S.
Height1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)
Weight74 kg (163 lb)
Event(s)Sprint, hurdles, long jump, high jump, triple jump, pole vault,
ClubSouthern California Striders, Anaheim
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)100 yd – 9.6 (1964)
220 yd – 22.0 (1964)
120 ydH – 13.7 (1961)
HJ – 2.04 m (1962)
PV – 4.16 m (1960)
LJ – 8.35 m (1965)
TJ – 15.89 m (1964)[1]


Early years and educationEdit

Boston was born in Laurel, Mississippi. As a student at Tennessee State University, he won the 1960 National Collegiate Athletic Association title in the long jump. In August of the same year, he broke the world record in the event, held by Jesse Owens for 25 years, at the Mt. SAC Relays. Already the world record holder, he improved the mark past 27 feet, jumping 27' 1/2" at the Modesto Relays on May 27, 1961.[2]

Athletic careerEdit

He qualified for the Summer Olympics in Rome, where he took the gold medal in the long jump, setting the Olympic record at 8.12 m (26 ft 7 12 in), while narrowly defeating American teammate Bo Roberson by a mere centimeter.[1]

Boston won the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) national championship in the long jump six times in a row from 1961 to 1966. He also had the longest triple jump for an American in 1963. He returned to the Tokyo Olympics as the world record holder after losing the record to Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, then regaining the record a couple of months before the games, first in Kingston, Jamaica and improving it at the 1964 Olympic Trials. In the Olympic final, Boston exchanged the lead with Ter-Ovanesyan. Going into the fifth round, Boston was leading but fouled while both Lynn Davies and Ter-Ovanesyan jumped past him. On his final jump, he was able to jump past Ter-Ovanesyan, but could not catch Davies and ended winning the silver medal.[1]

Boston's final record improvement to 8.35m was again at the 1965 Modesto Relays. It was tied at altitude by Ter-Ovanesyan in 1967. In 1967, he lost the national title to Jerry Proctor. When rival Bob Beamon was suspended from the University of Texas at El Paso, for refusing to compete against Brigham Young University, alleging it had racist policies, Boston began to coach him unofficially.[3] Beamon took the 1968 National Championships. At the 1968 Olympics, Boston watched his pupil destroy the tied world record by jumping 8.90 m (29' 2 1/2"). Boston was then 29 years old. He won a bronze medal behind Beamon and Klaus Beer and retired from competitions shortly thereafter.[1] He moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, and worked for the University of Tennessee as Coordinator of Minority Affairs and Assistant Dean of Students from 1968 to 1975.[4] He was the field event reporter for the CBS Sports Spectacular coverage of domestic track and field events. He was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1974 and into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1985.[5]

Later yearsEdit

A Los Angeles Times article on Boston from August 2, 2010, coinciding roughly with the 50th anniversary of his initial world record, described him as a divorced great-grandfather who is writing an autobiography. He divides his time between Atlanta, Georgia and Knoxville.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d Ralph Boston.
  2. ^ Powell Leaps Past Beamon – Long Jumper Tops 23-Year-Old Mark. Seattle Times. (August 30, 1991). Retrieved on 2015-06-17.
  3. ^ Bob Beamon Biography at
  4. ^ Betty Bean, "The Jackie Walker Story," Metro Pulse, November 22, 2007. Accessed at the Internet Archive, 2 October 2015.
  5. ^ Carroll Van West, "Ralph Boston," Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Retrieved: June 20, 2014.
  6. ^ Jerry Crowe (August 2, 2010) Fifty years ago, Ralph Boston leaped his way into history. Los Angeles Times
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
  Jesse Owens
Men's Long Jump World Record Holder
August 12, 1960 – June 10, 1962
Succeeded by
  Igor Ter-Ovanesyan
Preceded by
  Igor Ter-Ovanesyan
Men's Long Jump World Record Holder
August 15, 1964 – October 19, 1967
Succeeded by
  Igor Ter-Ovanesyan
Preceded by
  Rafer Johnson
Track & Field Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
  Peter Snell
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Men's Long Jump Best Year Performance
1960, 1961
Succeeded by
  Igor Ter-Ovanesyan
Preceded by
  Igor Ter-Ovanesyan
Men's Long Jump Best Year Performance
1963, 1964, 1965
Succeeded by
  Igor Ter-Ovanesyan